OAD milking in early lactation

The expansion of the national dairy herd over the last number of years has seen many dairy farmers choosing to operate once-a-day (OAD) milking in early lactation. This practice has become increasingly more popular as herd sizes increase.

Brian Hilliard, OAD dairy advisor with Teagasc, highlighted some of the reasons behind this, in a recent Teagasc webinar.

”Short-term OAD milking during the spring time is essential for dairy farmers who are achieving high calving rates during the month of February, to balance the workload.”

A Teagasc study found no difference in yields between cows milked OAD for the first two weeks of lactation and compared to those milked twice-a-day (TAD) from the start.

Farmers often have concerns over OAD milking in relation to mastitis and cell counts, a Teagasc study showed no difference in the number of mastitis cases compared to a herd milking TAD for the same period.

With cell counts in OAD herds being marginally higher, it should be noted that only a small number of cows were milked OAD.

Tom O’Connell, a dairy farmer based in Cork, who recently spoke at the Irish Grassland Association (IGA) dairy conference, said that on his farm OAD milking is done until 60% of the herd is calved which is usually between two to three weeks.

Benefits

Milking OAD for a short period has many advantages to dairy farmers in the busy spring period.

”OAD milking can be used as a tool to help alleviate labour shortages that may be present on dairy farms.

”It will allow for the efficient completion of tasks such as calf rearing, care of cows calving and grassland management.”

Teagasc research shows a saving of over 30% in milking time by milking cows OAD in early lactation

Hidden benefits of OAD milking in early lactation include better body condition score (BCS) and return to cyclicity in early lactation.